Monday, November 12, 2012

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Guiffrida Rev 1

Amy Giuffrida
YA Gothic
The Bleeding Heart

I sit and watch the blood run down his arm. It isn’t my job to wipe it away, not yet anyway. Today I just get to watch Jonathan use his rag to remove the ink-stained liquid. I am a witness to all of this and can’t participate in making him bleed. The fact that I am not the one causing the pain is truly killing me. I want my hands on him. I want to be the one holding the needle etching into his skin, spilling pain and blood. It will be my turn soon, but not until I turn 18. Damn laws.

“You’re sweating.” Jonathan says.

“Um, sorry.” I get up quickly and leave the room. I just cannot handle being a non-participant and Jonathan is beginning to get suspicious. None of the other tattoo technicians get excited about blood, just the art. The last thing I want is for anyone to see how anxious I am, even though I have been groomed since age 14 to take over the business for Jonathan. Business is business and my need has absolutely nothing to do with that part of things.

I fear my shaking hands are going to give me away, as are the beads of sweat clinging to my forehead. I turn on the cold water and scoop it up to my face. I need to settle the redness that has surely invaded my pale skin. Focusing on breathing slowly, I use the sink as support. Be calm. Breathe.

That was very close. I almost revealed myself by getting too excited. I don’t think Jonathan could handle knowing about what is growing inside of me, my need. I think every day I am getting worse. The sickness is getting closer and closer to the top of my skin. I feel like anyone who looks at me can see it bubbling just under the surface. I have been so good at hiding myself, I mean it has been five years since I came here to live with Jonathan and he doesn’t even know how badly I want to hurt someone. The need to make someone bleed has swelled up my insides, so much that I can’t think of much else. My control is about to get away from me.

Get it together Brooklyn. You can do this. Deep breath to fill my lungs and I walk back to the side room where Jonathan is working. I focus on continuing to breathe deeply, in and out. Thankfully, it seems as though this session is finished. The big man is sitting up on the table, while Jonathan is smearing A & D Ointment on the completed piece. Although it is just an outline, one of a dragon, he still takes precaution using gloves and sterile dressing to protect himself and the man’s new tattoo.

Although Jonathan completed the outline, this man is the one who will be the first one I will get to sink my needles into. Just one short month until I can finally satiate my need, practice my art on a human arm. No more sketch pads and grapefruit. Real, live skin that will bleed as I work. I shutter just thinking about being the one to inflict pain, rather than the other way around. No more will I be the victim.

“All done, man.” Jonathan says. “Brooklyn here will be working with me to shade in your tat during your next session. You’re still cool with this right?”

“Yup.” Turning to me he says, “Don’t screw up little girl.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” No way I would screw up my change at piercing his skin with my needles.

I knew that Jonathan had another customer arriving shortly. I keep his calendar in my brain, burned there and scarred by my need. This was the only thing that kept me moving through the day. School was for those who were normal, which I definitely was not. Cleaning up the workspace and setting up for clients was therapeutic for me. It was the time I needed to think and reflect on things. Dream about completing the perfect tattoo on a special client. One who would be able to break through the pain and allow me to go deeper; bleeding them more than normal. Where else could I get the chance? Here, I can be in control. Everything would be legal. This is my home. My safe place. My school.

For a while I tried school, but even at twelve I couldn’t be counted on paying attention in class. All my time spent here was daydreaming about how I could hurt someone and not get caught. Pulling the hair of the boy or girl in front of me was too juvenile, plus I would get caught.

Some days, I didn’t even make it to school. All I wanted to do was draw in my sketchbook and if I saw something interesting on the walk to school, I’d stop and work. The school administration did not find this interest conducive to learning, but Jonathan saw potential in my scribblings. During one long meeting at school it was decided that it was best to home school me and give me the space I needed to grow as an artist. Not traditionally what a parent would do, but then again Jonathan and I are the total and complete opposite of traditional.

Living with Jonathan has been pretty easy. The first day we met he said to me, “I am not your father. You and me, we’re partners in this thing we call life. We will stick together, so that nothing will happen to us. Okay kid?”

I didn’t need my father or my mother. They were the one who caused all of the trouble and allowed me to be hurt. Had that night happened, I’d still be with them. Jonathan would save me, he’d be able to help me to channel my hate and need for vengeance in a positive direction. He did all of this unknowingly.

“Earth to Brooklyn.”

“Huh?” I turned to see Jonathan standing next to me.

“Wow! You were totally in your own world there. Let’s get something to eat while we have some time before my next client. Then you really should do something school-like for awhile.”

Even though I didn’t physically go to school, I still had to check in and show I was making academic progress and following homeschooling guidelines. This meant every once in a while, Jonathan would instruct me to get some work done, rather than hang out in the shop.

“Fine Jonathan, I’ll do some school work after we eat. I’ll give it one hour.”

“Brook, you need to give it more time. You have done nothing this week and your grades on the recent assessments have shown it.”


  1. Hi Amy,

    Wow! What changes! I really feel like my questions from the last draft were answered. I really understand Brooklyn's "need" now, which is great, and her conflict makes more sense.

    I do feel like in this round some of the awesome dark voice was lost. Some of your sentences felt a bit formal and a few of the paragraphs (the one describing the need and the one describing her not fitting in at school) were a bit repetitive. You really pack a punch with each sentence (in a good way), so there isn't much need to explain again!

    I'd like to get a better feel of what Brooklyn and jonathon look like. I miss the artsy/dark/almost dingy setting feel I got from the first go through.

    Keep it up!


  2. Hi Amy,

    I have a much clearer feel for what is going on now. Great job!

    At the same time, I wonder if there is more narrative than there needs to be. Maybe you can find a way to give the information the reader needs with dialogue or action. Maybe you can delay some of the info (backstory) and just give a hint to her sickness.

    For example, "That was close. I almost revealed myself by getting too excited. I don’t think Jonathan could handle knowing about what is growing inside of me, my need to hurt someone. To watch them bleed." Then go to "Get it together..." Or something like that.

    I'm such an amateur, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

    One edit: Do you mean "chance" instead of "change" here? "No way I would screw up my change at piercing his skin with my needles."

    1. Yes, I did mean chance. This is why I am grateful for this workshop:) Thanks!

  3. hi Amy,
    I'm afraid I'm having trouble giving you useful advice.

    The previous version had a dark moodiness that I miss, but I definitely understand better what's going on in this revision.

    Some minor things:
    -- "shutter" should be "shudder" in one place.
    -- I didn't understand what this sentence meant: "No way I would screw up my change at piercing his skin with my needles." Is there a metamorphosis imminent?

    Maybe the issue is that I don't understand why the story is starting here? Does this particular man being tattooed matter? You do say she's one month from age 18 (when she can finally do something to meet her need)... maybe open with that 1 month? Maybe instead of interiority describing her need, have her act on the man and show what she can/can't have at this point? (and what risks/dangers there are?)

    Sorry, I'm rambling... I do hope you maybe find something helpful in it. Do keep writing!


  4. Ki-Wing,
    You have been very helpful!
    Originally I thought of beginning the story with the event that began Brooklyn's spiral into the dark need to cause pain to others. Maybe that would really be more effective, so I'll try during my next revision.

  5. Hi Amy,

    I agree that the added clarity -- which is fantastic and makes me feel even more like this is going to be a fascinating character to explore -- has exposed some additional weaknesses. Structurally, Ki-Wing's query is dead-on. I am trusting that there is a reason you are starting with this man. He's going to be her first client. But what about THIS meeting is necessary? Is it just Jonathan's suspicion? Is it that knowing this man was going to be her first put her over the edge and made her start to lose control? Or does she suspect that he is the one who will let her go deeper, let her bleed him more? If so, what makes her think that? Does her reaction her lead to possibly losing the trust she's built with Jonathan? The opportunities she is about to capitalize on? Show us the stakes more clearly and give us a better feel that this scene puts the wheels in motion.

    One additional piece of information I would love to have is a better sense of how she ended up with Jonathan. I found this paragraph confusing:

    I didn’t need my father or my mother. They were the one who caused all of the trouble and allowed me to be hurt. Had that night happened, I’d still be with them. Jonathan would save me, he’d be able to help me to channel my hate and need for vengeance in a positive direction. He did all of this unknowingly.

    Rather than building urgency by providing one question, it provides too many so that I'm too busy rereading instead of feeling compelled to read on. A little bit of clarification there would help to ground us.

    And then there's the bigger issue, the repetition of information and the loss of the gritty voice you started with. I suggest that you go over this and review what information you reveal more than once. Trust the reader to get it. Hit a point and move on. Vary your sentence structure, and pace your sentences to mirror your protag's emotions. Let us hear who she is, not just the information that describes her.

    Finally, you hinted at pain being her artistic medium, but you didn't fully go there. Are you saving that for later? If there's no concrete reason to delay it, I'd love to see you exploit that metaphor here.

    Looking forward to seeing the final round of this!